LAS VEGAS -Lexi Rydalch went cold from the field and Kalani Purcell’s double-double wasn’t enough for the Cougars as they were upset by San Francisco 70-68 in the West Coast Conference championship game Tuesday afternoon.
BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said the team lost due to poor transitions and out-of-sync shots.
“Not everything goes perfect every time in life,” Judkins said. “We won the conference, we played really well this week, and in the last couple minutes we didn’t execute like we normally do.”
Rydalch finished the game with 23 points and was the Cougars leading scorer, but the senior shot just 33 percent and hit only one of her last 10 shots. Despite the poor shooting, Rydalch passed LMU’s Hank Gathers as the WCC all-time leading scorer.
Despite the loss, Kalani Purcell earned her 18th double-double of the season with 17 points and 16 rebounds. She tallied 405 total rebounds this year, the most in a single season in BYU women’s basketball history.
Rydalch and Purcell were both named to the West Coast Conference All-Tournament Team.
BYU controlled the game the second the clock started. The Cougars shut out the Dons offense for first four minutes and BYU had a 26-14 lead going into the second quarter.
The Cougars maintained a double-digit margin as Rydalch racked up 16 points before the half. The Dons weren’t ready to repeat last year’s 11 point championship loss against BYU. San Francisco managed to trim the lead down to five going into the third quarter.
“We had a let down and that’s when San Francisco got back in it,” Rydalch said.
San Francisco made a run, cutting BYU’s lead to just one point. Cassie Broadhead answered with a deep shot to open the lead to 58-54 at the end of the third quarter.
The Dons tied the game with six minutes to go and BYU again hustled to bounce back. The Cougars shots weren’t falling and they connected on just seven 3-pointers.
Rydalch fouled out with 50 seconds left and foul shots in the final seconds gave the game to the Dons.
What had started as a 13-point lead ended two points short of a victory.
Rydalch hopes the loss will prove as a source of momentum for the Cougars’ post-season future.
“This happened to us the year when we went to the Sweet Sixteen and we can use that as a reminder that this doesn’t have to be the end of the season. We can learn from it and it can be one more battle that we’ve been through and that we can learn from and become better from,” Rydalch said.
The Dons (21-11) earn an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament with the victory. The Cougars (26-6) await women’s selection day for the NCAA tournament on Monday.
“We’ll work on things that we need to work on and be better at things we’re already good at,” Purcell said. “It’s a matter of picking each other up now.”